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A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
12 years ago3,000 views

Yesterday Michael Arrington of TechCrunch posted a sort-of Answered Prayers call-to-arms:

"We Want A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200. Help Us Build It."

By "help" t/he/y meant both feedback input, as well as the actual physical and spiritual partaking in defining the specs, and ultimately prototyping of the device. This open invitation to activism has so far resulted in 463 comments on the original page + several hundred more in linked threads, all wildly enthusiastic, but also oh-so-chaotic in scope and quality. E. g. despite stated goals of doing it entirely with open source, Linux OS and main-screen /adapted kiosk-mode/ Firefox browser --as good an initial choice as any-- the commenters could not, or would not, rein in their private phobias against, and/or appetites for alternative (and not seldom for-profit) choices of Web Operating Systems, additional headaches of character- and voice recognition, and alt.browser choices (?why? because nobody can ever look beyond version 1.0 of such an imaginary product, thus this tablet must be the First and Final One! Call Moses, reserve space on the Mount of the Sermon.).

That, plus an even more idiosyncratic spectrum of wannabe helpers ("have some experience with web development and marketing, how can I help" sounds about typical) tells me that the project leaders' biggest problem won't be the design and subsequent prototyping of it, but how to weed out contributors with real potential out of the great unwashed mass, while gently shooing away also-rans without alienating them in the process.

Frankly, it'd have been better had t/he/y gone public FIRST AFTER preparing an internally-finished beta spec, complete with, say, a spreadsheet listing of projected costs in terms of time, personnel and money for all considered, but ultimately rejected, extensions to the basic core. It'd made subsequent public debate so much more targeted: want triple battery time? Here's the answer why not. ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

I once heard of a story of how soldiers entered a village and they were starving for food. Knocking on the doors of the huits of the war-torn village asking for meals, everybody said they had too little to give.

So the soldiers of this fictional tale had an idea. They went to the village center and prepared a big pot with a fire underneath, heating some water. Into the water, they put some heavier stones from the vicinity. By now, people noticed that something was bubbling and that something was in the pot, and one by one, they came out of their houses. Seeing the meal in progress, one added a single carrot. The next added a potato. Another had some coleslaw.

And so, after a while, a whole lot of people around the village added their food. Not long afterwards, the soldiers removed their stones from the pot.... and then had a big meal for them and everyone else.

(Is this tale applicable to the TechCrunch idea? I don't know. And in some occasions, the sum of the parts may indeed not be more than the sum.)

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Never happened/ not applicable to TechCrunch project.

Ad ^1: it's a (needlessly fleshed-out, if you ask me) version of the old-European folk tale, precursor to urban legend, of a wandering beggar, or some such, showing a local peasant/ gentry how to make a soup out of nails and water, the only on-hand available commodity. Never mind.

Ad ^2: Eric Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" manifesto comes to mind. TechCrunch team needs to be very conservative when it comes to defining the final spec, and cut down on hardware and software features and their bastard offspring featurettes. Otherwise they'll never get this cathedral PARDON THE METAPHOR off the ground.

In fact, were I involved in this, I'd argue that, e.g., in order to overcome for such a very limited-budget endeavor fairly insourmontable problems of ASSURING SUFFICIENT BATTERY TIME (however they define it), they, that is we, will have to provide a redundant wired-Ethernet and "umbilical" power sockets in the casing. Make battery use of secondary importance even, as it will not be easy to solve with current technology no matter what (or else – had Apple with their superior tech-know-how in battery matters been able to make a 4x larger screen iPod Touch with more than a couple hours no-tethered use between charges, don't you think we'd already see a color "Kindle-killer" from Apple Barn & Stables rhetorical question exclamation mark).

Nik Cubrilovic [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

some great points Ian, I am taking in all the feedback and questions we have seen so far and will be following up with posts / wiki etc.

Pierre S [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

To illustrate the concept: ...

Caleb E [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Phillip's story is called "Stone Soup": ...
I've heard it before too.

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